The Karabakh Victory Major Outcome Of 2020 For Azerbaijan & More
The liberation of the most of the territories in and outside Karabakh from Armenia’s occupation is the major outcome for Azerbaijanis in 2020 and will always be remembered as a remarkable date.
Every nation has indeed memorable dates. For many generations of Azerbaijanis, 2020 will become the same memorable one. If for the majority of the inhabitants of the planet, 2020 is primarily the year of the coronavirus pandemic, quarantines and lockdowns, for Azerbaijan, it is the year of the brilliant victory in the Second Karabakh War.
Karabakh’s unfettering has paved the way for relatively young Azerbaijani state to regain confidence and plan the complete restoration of own territorial integrity in the near future.
Karabakh is Azerbaijan!
Today it is obvious that the underpinning, the foundation for Azerbaijan's victory was laid long before under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev.
Azerbaijan systematically and painstakingly implemented its oil and gas strategy, carried out economic reforms, which allowed the country to achieve real economic independence, to increase, among other things, the military budget and to implement a military development program that included everything – from the procurement of state-of-the-art weapons, the training of professional military personnel, the strengthening of the social protection of servicemen to the improvement of the conditions of servicemen.
The most of us are still unaware of the hard work that made the Karabakh win real. The development of military plans, drills, military exercises at training grounds and near-real war are integral parts of daily routine of the military. The launch of Azerbaijani satellites also played a pivotal role both prior and during the Karabakh war and undoubtedly will be of huge benefit in years to come as also Azerbaijan’s extra eyes, seeing all developments on the ground in territories around us.
At the same time, diplomatic work, preparations of public opinion, when at some stage, Armenian pundits yelled - Azerbaijan has prepared a carte blanche for the war!
Now there is no longer any doubt: as a result of the 44-day Patriotic War, Azerbaijan is the first of the post-Soviet countries to resolve the territorial conflict by military-political means, expel the occupiers and restore control over own lands. Our country has proven its military power and state maturity, forcing to radically re-evaluate stereotypes about the balance of power in the region.
The strike of the Azerbaijani "iron fist" was so crushing that within 20 days - from November 10 to December 1 - Armenia peacefully left Agdam, Kalbacar and most of Lacin District - despite the fact that in various Kazan, Madrid and other negotiations rooms proposals for the return of the Azerbaijani lands envisaged several years coupled with endless restrictions.
All these are already history with no chance of resuscitation. Finally, Azerbaijan has created a fundamentally new and effective external Russian-Turkish format in the region and legalized Turkey's military presence on its territory. The direct way between Turkey and Azerbaijan is also open through Zangazur, controlled by Armenia. Fraternal relations between Baku and Ankara have reached a significantly higher level. The results of these new political trends have yet to fully manifest themselves.
Perhaps, the Karabakh chronicle of 2020 should not start from 8 November, or even from 27 September. War is always preceded by a broken peace, and Karabakh is no exception. A chance for a peaceful settlement on 17 February 2020, within the framework of the Munich Security Conference, an open debate was held between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - the very one after which the expression "Caucasian bureau" with a unique Armenian "pronoun" became a household name, and Armenia demanded seriously to ban Pashinyan speaking English.
The next step towards war was made on 8 May 2020, when Nikol Pashinyan went to occupied Karabakh to take part in the “inauguration” of Arayik Harutyunyan, in the then occupied Susa. In Azerbaijan, this was perceived as an open challenge, a deliberate insult and an actual refusal to dialogue. It is after this outburst in Azerbaijan that the frequency and scale of military exercises reached its maximum and a countdown started.
Tovuz battles & pipeline subtext
The next "benchmark" of 2020, no doubt, was the fighting on the Tovuz section of the state border of Azerbaijan and Armenia, a few hundred kilometres from Nagorno-Karabakh. It is noteworthy that Armenia decided to go on the offensive exactly where impressive communication lines pass quite close to the border.
These are the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil export pipeline and, most importantly, the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). The fact that it was Armenia that went on the offensive was soon confirmed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, noting that “the trigger was the decision of Armenia to revive the old border checkpoint, located 15 km off the Azerbaijani export pipelines, which caused increased concern among some, an unjustified response the reaction of others and eventually launched the flywheel of confrontation with the most unpredictable consequences.
The administrative borders of the USSR republics were not even marked on the ground and, moreover, did not imply any checkpoints; the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia turned into a front line even during the existence of the USSR. However, the very fact that the Russian Foreign Minister accused Armenia of provoking clashes is more than remarkable.
Azerbaijan's "gas breakthrough": SGC against Covid-19
The economic results of 2020 for most countries were determined by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, more precisely, the quarantine measures associated with it. At the outset of the year, experts started talking about a halt in the global economy, and by the end of the year, predictions of a real famine of biblical proportions began to come true in the poorest countries.
However, against the current background, the Azerbaijani economy demonstrates stability. The health care system is also hit though the mortality rate from Covid-19 in Azerbaijan per 100,000 population is significantly lower than that of its regional neighbours, and is close to the prosperous European countries.
Of course, painful quarantine restrictions have hit many, especially small businesses and the tourism sector. But nevertheless, the social support program, and the deployment of modular clinics, and much more allow the country to "take the hit" and not fall into a real apocalypse - neither epidemic, nor economic. By the end of the year, the start of vaccination against coronavirus was announced.
But Covid-19 may not be the economic highlight of the year. Indeed, if in the military and military-political sphere, the main event of 2020 was the launch of the Southern Gas Corridor, the largest investment project in recent years. On November 15, just in the days when the Armenian invaders were leaving Agdam and Kalbacar, the operator of the Trans-Adriatic pipeline - TAP, the final link of the Southern Gas Corridor - announced the start of commercial operation.
As explained by the TAP management, “the beginning of commercial operations of TAP means that the gas pipeline is ready to transport gas. And the actual deliveries depend on the suppliers, who order them according to the daily capacity nominations, based on the previously booked volumes”. Physically, Azerbaijani gas reached Greece and Italy on New Year's Eve - December 30.
For Azerbaijan, this is a great and “multifaceted” success. Gas export means, first, a substantial inflow of the euro for gas. The economic basis of Azerbaijan's relations with the EU and its individual members, primarily Italy, is being strengthened many times over. The regional partnership in the Ankara-Baku-Tbilisi format, which has already proved its effectiveness, is being strengthened. Our country, by analogy with oil, is creating an independent system of its own gas export, which allows Baku to pursue a truly independent export policy.
Finally, a fair amount of food for thought is provided by the rigid synchronization of the key stages of the SGC implementation with aggravations in the Karabakh direction. Not only the battles in Tovuz, but also the Armenian provocation on the night of 27 September, which became the beginning of the big war, had a distinct "pipeline target".
Whether Yerevan acted on its own initiative or on a hint from outside is a topic where one has to operate on guesses and conjectures, rather than clear facts. However, there is no doubt about the fact that the plans of the organizers clearly did not include such an ending: Azerbaijan solved the Karabakh conflict by military-political means, secured its transcontinental communications and confirmed its fundamentally different not only military, but also political weight.
Diplomacy of the next level
Frankly speaking, in 2020, the growth of the political authority of Azerbaijan was obvious beyond the framework of the Karabakh and, moreover, the traditional "energy" track, which is certainly the most important for our country.
On April 10, on the initiative of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev as Chairman of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States, an extraordinary Summit of the Turkic Council was held via videoconference. It was attended not only by "traditional" participants in such meetings, but also by Hungary, a Nato and the EU member, which in itself testifies to a lot.
Another successful "platform" for Azerbaijani diplomacy has become the Non-Aligned Movement, where our country has to its credit not only the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in the Contact Group format. On December 3, at the initiative of President Aliyev, a special session of the UN General Assembly in video format dedicated to the fight against Covid-19 pandemic was held in New York at the level of heads of states and governments. Azerbaijan has once again demonstrated that it conducts its foreign policy at a level that many post-Soviet countries cannot even dream of.
Azerbaijani choice: "revolution from above" continues
On February 9, 2020, the elections to the Azerbaijani parliament was held and won by the ruling New Azerbaijan Party. Many experts consider this plebiscite to be an important stage of political reforms and “revolution from above”. Voting was preceded by a large-scale liberalization of the electoral process, primarily in such a delicate area as the nomination of candidates. The drastic reduction in the number of required signatures and the easing of other procedural requirements have not only greatly expanded the electoral competition and the range of candidates. "Spoiler candidates" and "clone candidates" have appeared in Azerbaijan.
Nevertheless, it is obvious that the February elections were an important stage in political reforms in our country. At the same time, a political dialogue was launched in Azerbaijan, proposed by President Ilham Aliyev and his team. Almost all parties and movements, minus the small radical opposition, supported him.
Another important event of the year was the continuation of personnel and management reforms. The Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Combating Corruption was established in Azerbaijan. High-profile arrests continue in the country, but at the same time, priority is given to institutional measures.
Another important milestone was the creation by the presidential decree of the Azerbaijan Investment Holding - and these are fundamentally different technologies of economic and social management. All this radically changes the philosophy of public life in our country, and most often, we are talking about long-term programs.
Political reforms in Azerbaijan underwent a serious "test of strength" during the war, when Armenian strategists made a serious stake on the "build-up of the situation" in Azerbaijan, but their plans completely failed. “The people rallied around their Supreme Commander-in-Chief” - this was not a loud slogan, but reality. The reality that we can be proud of, too.